In the fall of 2016, an update to iOS 10 sent shockwaves through the market research industry. The update included an upgrade to the default email application which places a banner (see image below) above the body of the incoming mail when the email in question is part of an email distribution list.
These kinds of distribution lists are used by spammers, to be sure, but also by many, many legitimate agencies, such as your neighborhood bank, the grocery store that sends you coupons, the cooking store you signed up to get recipes from and....your market research online panel. This new addition to the iOS gives the recipient an easy way to unsubscribe from the mailing. With the touch of a finger, the unsubscribe request can be sent. For more detail about this update, check out this article at Campaign Monitor.
Now, what's the big deal, you might ask? After all, any legitimate non-spam sender will have included an unsubscribe link within the body of their email. And that's true. But in order to get to it, the receiver would have to open up that email, or at the very least scroll through it to get to the link, typically placed at the bottom. That gives them time to look at the message itself, and hopefully rememember that they did, in fact, sign up to receive these kinds of communications. Without the need to do that, many people may simply choose to unsubscribe because it's quick and easy, and in an environment where the average consumer is inundated with marketing messages, it would be easy to mistake a survey invitation for one.
DDG has been monitoring the impact of this update on its online survey business. We're not going to tell you that it didn't make us nervous when it first appeared. BUT, so far, this added functionality has not negatively impacted survey response rates at DDG in any substantive way for the research we conduct.
Additionally, we see very little increase in unsubscribes since the implementation of this feature on surveys using our custom built online panels. The members of those audiences do seem to in fact remember that they signed up to partipate, and they are not defecting with the advent of this new feature. Added bonus - using the unsubscribe button through this new banner method does not mark your outgoing email as spam the way a physical report to an ISP would, and therefore your sender reputation is not damaged.
It's not all good news, however. While our custom panel unsubscribe rates have remained steady, we have seen a significant increase in the number of unsubscribe requests being processed through this new banner functionality when the survey invitation is going to a client's non-empanelized customer list. These people have not agreed to participate in ongoing studies, and are only available to email with research through their existing relationship with the client. Because of that, they don't have the same brand connection with the sender that they would if they belonged to an actively recruited and maintained custom panel. Here, the impact is substantial. On a recent study conducted by DDG, we measured unsubscribe requests for this year's project compared to the same study/same list/same time last year, and found that since the iOS 10 update, unsubscribe requests have increased by 250%. That's a sobering number. And while thus far we haven't seen a corresponding reduction in response and completion rates on these kinds of studies, the trend definitely merits close monitoring.
Bottom line, do not panic. At the moment, the iOS default email application banner is more of an inconvenience than a devastating blow. It may require a little additional human time to process the unsubscribe requests, but right now that seems to be the most significant impact. Stay tuned, as we continue to monitor this phenomenon and its effect on our research.